Account Management Presentation Skills
Media Training for Sportspeople
The first thirty seconds is the most important part of any presentation or speech.
This is an undeniable truth carved into imaginary stone tablets many moons ago by the completely fictional gods of public speaking. Effectively beginning a presentation is vital as your audience decides whether to tune-in and listen to what you have to say, or to tune-out and begin thinking about something else.
Get the first thirty seconds wrong, and you will spend the next thirty minutes attempting to draw your audience back in.
You will have lost your opportunity to inform, persuade, inspire and motivate your audience.
What happens in the mind of our audience during that golden first thirty seconds?
Our senses, (yours, mine, everyone’s) are trained to alert us to things that are new or unusual. It’s an evolutionary throwback to when we were living in caves and hunted by tigers. (Yes, I just compared you to a caveman – sorry!). Back then, new and unusual sounds or activity meant at worst, danger or at best, a golden opportunity to sneak up on tonight’s dinner. If we were alert to these threats and opportunities, then we would survive. If we ignored them, we quickly became somebody else’s dinner.
Today, our senses are still on the lookout for the new and unusual, but rather than hunting our next meal, we use our senses to alert us to speakers that we believe might be useful to us. If our speaker begins their presentation effectively, then we listen to those first thirty seconds of a speech or presentation and sense a speaker that might be entertaining, informative or motivating in a way that will benefit us, then the chances are, we’re going to keep listening.
An audience that wants to listen to you is the most important ingredient for a successful speech (UNDENIABLE FACT ALERT!).
With all of the above theory (and that undeniable fact) in mind, which of these openings do you think is most likely to spark your audience’s senses, encourage them to stay engaged and begin your presentation effectively?
Good morning ladies and gentlemen. My name is Rich Watts and today I am here to talk to you about the benefits of using water retention devices in private gardens during the summer period.
Ladies and gentlemen, one single device in your garden could save you 20% of off your next water bill.
Option A is a textbook presentation opening. The chances are that during a lifetime of school lessons, lectures, work presentations and family gatherings, we have all heard hundreds of speeches that begin like this.
Our brains have heard these lines many times before. They are not new, curious or attention-grabbing. They don’t alert our senses. As a result, we quickly switch off. Both consciously and unconsciously we think ‘yep, heard this one before…’.
So, you guessed it, Option B is the winner. It’s unique. It’s different. It sets a tone for the rest of the speech. It's the most effective way to begin the presentation. It is a promise that perhaps the format, delivery and content of this talk will be different to every other dull presentation that we have sat through before. It leaves us wanting more. It leaves us engaged.
If your speech opening leaves your audience wanting to hear more, then you have succeeded.
You will have set yourself up perfectly to inform, inspire, persuade, or motivate your audience.